Occupational segregation is the distribution of workers across and within occupations, based upon demographic characteristics, most often gender. Other types of occupational segregation include racial and ethnicity segregation, and sexual orientation segregation. These demographic characteristics often intersect. While a job refers to an actual position in a firm or industry, an occupation represents a group of similar jobs that require similar skill requirements and duties. Many occupations are segregated within themselves because of the differing jobs, but this is difficult to detect in terms of occupational data. Occupational segregation compares different groups and their occupations within the context of the entire labor force. The value or prestige of the jobs are typically not factored into the measurements.
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Occupational segregation levels differ on a basis of perfect segregation and integration. Perfect segregation occurs where any given occupation employs only one group. Perfect integration, on the other hand, occurs where each group holds the same proportion of positions in an occupation as it holds in the labor force.
Many scholars, such as Biblarz et al., argue that occupational segregation often occurs in patterns, either horizontally (across occupations) or vertically (within the hierarchy of occupations) and is most likely caused by gender-based discrimination. However, it is important to note that in the past, occupational segregation with regards to race has not been well researched, with many studies choosing to compare two groups instead of multiple. Due to the fact that different genders of different racial/ethnic backgrounds experience different obstacles, measuring occupational segregation is more nuanced. Ultimately, occupational segregation results in wage gaps and the loss of opportunities for capable candidates who are overlooked because of their gender and race.